Meaning making across the community

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After my lament about the mere evolution of e-portfolio spaces in light of emerging affordances of technology, I left things hanging with my question about how the notion of revolution becomes part of the picture. My focus on collaborative reflection within the blogs as portfolio project this summer probably provides some solid clues, but there is more to the story.

Early on in round two at ETS, Cole and Brad introduced me to the idea of "horizontal contribution" and tools, like DISQUS, that can capture it. Cole does a much better job of explaining it than I ever could, but the basic idea is now you can track your contributions across blogs. Whereas previously comments resided in the blog owner's space, now the commenter "owns" their intellectual work in ways that were not possible before. Consider for example that you wanted to use a comment or series of comments as evidence of your own development as a professional in your e-portfolio. Now it is possible. All of this is very exciting and opens the door to possibilities that were not imaginable a year ago when I was encouraging students to make a brief comment and then trackback to their own posts in order to capture contributions.

Still, there is something left wanting. This is where I believe we need to flip the entire system on its head and think differently - revolution. If meaning is negotiated in social settings, then we need to be able to trace ideas and concepts through conversations among bounded groups over time, thus breaking down the silos of individual reflection. In other words, we need to figure out how to place the interactive nature of meaning-making in the driver's seat. The question becomes, how?

Bear with me now because I am venturing out of my depth. What if we could identify an idea (via tags) and track its evolution within a community of learners (across blogs)? We would need to be able to constrain parameters, such as identifying the members of the community, setting a time window, and designating the tags of interest. Imagine a Twitter Wheel, which provides a visualization of who your tweets are connected to and the extent to which you interact with various contacts. A topographical map might be another way to visualize this. Consider the peaks to be analogous to members of the community, and the height of the peaks to be the frequency with which members contribute via posts or comments around a particular concept. Now connect peaks to represent interactions across spaces. An interactive representation could be powerful in that you could "zoom in" and link to a particular post or blog. Again, the idea here would be for instructors and students to follow the discourse associated with a concept through a community space.

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